I’ve been percolating away on yesterday’s post, as well as the interesting comments that were made, and I find I’m not ready to let this topic drop!  Please bear with me while I muse aloud … in print.

It’s fascinating to me what different paths men and women tread toward attraction.

Now, we’ve heard for some time that men are from Mars, and women are from Venus.  That men seek independence and women, interconnection.  Deborah Tannen has written a fascinating book called Please Understand Me, in which she explores the different communication styles favoured by both genders.  Studying groups of 5 year girls and boys, and 25 year old men and women, she found more similarity along gender lines than within age groups, despite the enormous developmental differences between youth and adulthood.  The broad strokes of her research shows that, whether 5 or 25, males seek authority and give directives, while females seek consensus and ask questions.   This was driven home to me while taking an international flight a few weeks after reading the book:  the attendants were readying for landing, and a man across the aisle from me and up several rows didn’t have his seat in the requisite upright position.  The stewardess gently touched him on the shoulder and said, “Sir, would you mind putting your seat up?”  Minutes later, the man hadn’t complied, and a passing steward stated authoritatively, “Sir, put your seat up.”  I smiled, and thought of Dr. Tannen.

From what I’ve read and seen, men and women seem to approach attraction differently as well.

I can personally relate a scenario in which I was interviewed for the job of Marketing Manager with a major book re-seller in the GTA.  The owner of the company sat with me for over two hours, during which time we sparred our way through a number of lively discussions springboarding off his interview questions.  At the end of the interview, he offered me the job.  I grimaced slightly, because it was the best 2 hours I’d spent in a work place in some time, and I was about to disappoint both him and myself.

“I’m sorry,” I said, ruefully.  “I just don’t think this is the right job for me.”

“Oh,” the owner replied in a deflated tone.  Surveying me closely, he cocked his head to one side:  “You want to think about it over the weekend?”

I sat back in my chair at the unexpectedness of his query.  “Okay!”

The next day was Saturday.  As requested, I thought long and hard about our discussion, and realized that, while I knew intuitively that the job wasn’t a good fit for my personality, there was something keeping me from just saying ‘no’.  On Sunday, when reflecting on the owner and our interaction, I noticed that some rather warm feelings seemed to be incubating within me … imagined scenes in which his physical person was placed in close proximity to my own.  In these … well, let’s call them what they were … fantasies, there may or may not have been some jiggling going on, but there was probably some rocking and most definitely some lip action.

The surprising thing about this was that the gentleman in question was so far from the societal standard for physical perfection in the male of the species as to render such feelings unexpected.  In comparison to myself, the quintessential ‘big boned gal’, he was petite, 5’6″ in his stocking feet, and perhaps 130 pounds soaking wet.  He had frizzy brown hair which framed his small face in a highly indiscriminate manner, and wore coke bottle glasses with heavy black rims.

And still, I was definitely feeling a physical attraction.  What was this about?

After several more hours of contemplation, the conclusion I came to was this:  I thought he had the coolest mind I’d come across in a long, long time.  When he asked a question, he looked intently into your eyes while you answered, and you honestly felt that he wanted to engage with you.

My mind was intrigued, and my body was following where the mind led … in this case, it was leading to some rather racey locales which are perhaps best left un-discussed, seeing as my mother reads this blog.

And since I’ve recently come to understand that curiousity engenders considerable discomfort in felines, let me tell you what transpired.

I went back to his office on Monday morning, sat down in the chair facing his desk, looked him right in the eye, and suggested that, while I still didn’t believe the job was right for me, I hadn’t enjoyed meeting a man so much in an extremely long time, and, if his situation allowed, I’d very much like to take him to dinner.

Goethe claims that fortune favours the brave, but alas, this was not my experience.  Apparently, his situation didn‘t allow, although he was discreet and lovely about it all.  I was disappointed, but felt heartened in that at least I’d attempted to seize the day, which was invigorating, even if unproductive.

Now, let’s move to male attraction. Male readers, please fasten your seat belts, it’s about to get bumpy.

I must begin by admitting that scholarly pursuits sometimes take one down strange and unanticipated alleyways!  I was conducting some research on Gary S. Taylor, who, along with that lion of Shakespearean study, Stanley Wells, had edited one of the most popular editions of Shakespeare’s complete works available  The most recent book on Taylor’s roster at that time involved a study of castration through the ages.  Clicking through various links, I came across the story of a man who had, for some years, entertained a castration fantasy, which he animated using a number of tactics too painful to relate in polite company.  One night, at a gay S&M bar, he abandoned his primary rule in such situations, which was to remain sober at all times.  At the home of a pair of young men with whom he intended liaison, he tipsily related his secret fetish; a short time later, he found that one of the men had injected his scrotum with anesthetic, severed his testicles with one clean swipe of a scalpel, and stitched up the incision with a proficiency only garnered through medical training.

When I read this, I literally felt sickened that someone would do something so permanent and destructive to another human being (although, to be honest, recent events in my life have reminded me that doctors have been ripping out women’s reproductive organs with little or no rationale for several hundred years).

At any rate, this man was left in the unenviable situation of reconciling his present  physical state, which many would consider a mutilation, with the fulfillment of his fantasy.

But what was really interesting to me was this:  when asked how he was coping in ‘normal life’ without those body parts deemed essential by most men, he said that he had only one overriding problem.

He never knew now when he was attracted to a man.

He related that attraction to him, in the past, had been manifested by ‘getting a stiffy’ and without this physical road sign, he didn’t quite know how to negotiate dating’s complex map of highways and byways.  It was uncharted territory for him, and he was being forced to re-learn attraction in a new and different way.

While we’re speaking anecdotally, these dichotomous examples are consistent with much of what I know and read about male and female attraction.  Women tend to encounter attraction through the mind and emotional centre, after which it seeps into their bodies.  Men experience attraction first in their bodies, before it potentially transforms into romantic feeling.  And please note, I’m not trying to judge either route in a qualitative way, just to understand.

So what do you think?  Is this true?  And if so, what does it mean for men and women as they attempt to hook up with the right romantic partner?